Igor Rodionov was born December 1, 1936 in the village Kurakin Penza region in a peasant family. In 1957 he graduated from the Orel Tank School in 1970 with a gold medal - the Military Academy of Armored Forces.
He received higher military education, graduating from the Military Academy of the Armoured Forces named after Marshal Rodion Malinowski. In 1980 he graduated with honors from the and the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR named after KE Voroshilov.
Since 1957 he served in the armored troops of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. Since 1963 he was the commander of a tank company commander, deputy commander of a tank battalion of the Moscow Military District, from 1970 the commander of a motorized infantry regiment, deputy commander, division commander in the Carpathian Military District. In 1980-1983 he served as part of the Central Army Group (Czechoslovakia). From 1983 to 1985 he was the commander of the Combined Arms Army of the Far Eastern Military District.
In 1985-1986 he was commander of the 40th Army of the limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. His command of the 40th Army coincided with the start of de-escalation as a prelude to the withdrawal.
From 1986 to 1988 he served as first deputy commander of the Moscow Military District. In 1988-1989 he was Commander of the Transcaucasian Military District (ZakVO), military commander of the city of Tbilisi. While he was commander of the Transcaucasus Military District, his troops were deployed brutally and lethally to suppress protesters in Tbilisi in April 1989.
After April 1989, the “butcher of Tbilisi” needed to be found a quiet berth away from the public eye. From 1989 to 1996 he was Head of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
On July 17, 1996 he was appointed defense minister in the government of Viktor Chernomyrdin. Rodionov replaced army Gen. Pavel Grachev after Russia's presidential elections. On 11 December 1996 he was dismissed from military service, retaining his post as head of the military department. On May 22, 1997 Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed him from office.
Rodionov (with an armored forces background) put the defense emphasis on classical heavy forces. Rodionov advocated preparations for theater–wide conventional war with NATO. This, in turn, implied open–ended defense requirements and the need for a major increase in defense appropriations and force levels. Rodionov’s stance eventually led to conflict with the Secretary of the Defense Council, Yuri Baturin, and Boris Yeltsin, himself. The conflict ended with Rodionov’s demotion.
Rodionov made very clear what he saw as the linkage between the threat environment and military reform. In the debate over Grachev’s draft military doctrine, Rodionov had spoken of the new threats facing Russia. In addressing both the military-political and military-technical sides of military doctrine, while not dismissing the need to prepare for nuclear war, he spoke of the special relevance of the Gulf War. On the one hand, he used it to make the case for a willingness of the US and its NATO allies to use force in pursuit of foreign policy goals and identified the threat posed by high-tech, conventional weapons, because of the military-political, military-strategic, and military-technical situation confronting Russia and the Commonwealth had become a possible variant for ‘major aggression against Russia’.
In addition, Rodionov argued that Russia had to prepare for local wars near to the borders of Russia and other members of the Commonwealth, as well as in more distant regions, where Russian national interests could be affected. Finally, Rodionov spoke of internal conflicts, arising out of national or religious antagonisms, which could lead to civil war and foreign intervention.
During his brief tenure Rodionov found himself engaged in a losing fight with the civilian leadership of the national security apparatus over the proper course of military reform. In the face of pressure to confine reform to the armed forces and focus upon personnel reductions, Rodionov had warned that NATO expansion could mean the appearance of a non-strategic nuclear threat directly on Russia’s western frontiers. ‘We might objectively face the task of increasing tactical nuclear weapons at our border.’
In Russia, "NATO" was still a dreaded word. The threat of Russia's Cold War enemy lingers in people's minds, according to Russian Defense Minister army Gen. Igor Rodionov. NATO was the product of the Cold War, he told U.S. and NATO defense ministers here in a special meeting 26 September 1996. People had not forgotten the powerful confrontation of two powerful military systems, he said. "Our people are tired of military confrontation, as are all people of Europe," Rodionov said. "It is very difficult to convince our people NATO is a peaceful organization with good purposes only." The meeting was his first with U.S. and Western European defense leaders. It was also the first time a Russian defense minister attended an informal NATO meeting.
Rodionov said there was no strategic necessity for NATO to advance eastward. Russian officials are not ready to see nations that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact or the former Soviet Union join the 16-nation Western security alliance, he said. Russian military officials want to continue working with NATO as they had in Bosnia, Rodionov said. If NATO determines a follow-on force is needed to replace the implementation force, Russia will send troops, he said.
Rodionov said his current focus was on reducing and reforming and Russia's military. He said he believed it possible to maintain deterrence with substantially fewer nuclear weapons and looked forward to discussing further reductions in nuclear forces. He also said he intends to reduce the Russian armed forces. This will improve its quality in personnel, readiness, equipment and control. He said he wants to create a modern, effective fighting force able to defend Russia and its allies.
Rodionov outlined his plans for a much smaller, mobile, highly-trained, professional army which will become a significant force within ten years. To do so, the Russian senior officer corps will be cut, new force structures will be adopted, expanded arms exports will provide funds for research and development, and the Russian Army will try to avoid contingency operations which detract from reform, restructuring and combat-readiness.
In a major interview with Moscow News in 1996, General Rodionov laid out his vision for the Russian Army in ten years. "We are talking about creating a small, mobile, well-trained army capable of carrying out its principal assignment--deflecting or sustaining the first blow." General Rodionov's predecessor, General Pavel Grachev, preserved skeleton divisions at the price of combat readiness. The ill-trained, unpaid, starving army that stumbled into and out of Chechnya was the result.
General Rodionov planned to slash the ground forces to twelve combined-arms divisions which are deployable, fightable and combat-ready. Since financial constraints restrain the size of the ground forces, General Rodionov is determined to rid the force of its hollow divisions and convert the few that remain into a combat-ready, professional force that will serve Russia and serve as a basis for expansion in time of crisis. In doing so, General Rodionov is preparing Russia to fight her most-likely, if not most-dangerous, future war.
Rodionov planned to put his scarce financial assets into paying, training and feeding his forces and he calculates that he can adequately pay, train and feed only twelve divisions. He had approximately 80 divisions, although many are little more than some combat equipment and a flag. General Rodionov planned to push and expand arms exports as a means of keeping the defense industry alive and generating needed research and development funds. Integrated cartels within the defense industry would concentrate on prototype development. There would be few orders for new equipment from the Russian Army in the immediate future.
In May 1997 Yeltsin fired Rodionov as Minister of Defense. Rodionov had spent a year fighting with civilian leaders over the proper course of military reform. Pressured to confine reform to the armed forces and focus on personnel reductions, Rodionov had warned that NATO expansion could cause Russia to increase a nonstrategic nuclear threat on its western frontiers. "We might objectively face the task of increasing tactical nuclear weapons at our border." Yeltsin replaced Rodionov with General Igor Sergeev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF).
Rodionov and the Chief of Staff, General Viktor Samsonov, were dumped because they would not try to shrink the army, modernize it, and retire officers without their legal compensation and the requisite investment in modernization. This state spending would have broken the budget. Nor did they believe that the army could be professionalized anytime soon. Apparently neither did anyone else. Thus these two generals resisted a trend that would force much more accountability of the officer corps but probably ruin the armed forces as a reliable instrument of national defense.
They also held out, quite irrationally, for a threat assessment on a global scale as in the USSR, a program that would destroy the state, not to mention the army, if carried out.
Rodionov later conceded that Russia's military instruments were useless. The chains of command were broken and split into rival factions. There was no rule of law, systematic or regularized procedure for making and implementing policy decisions, or any accountability to the Duma or the Judiciary. Yeltsin had deliberately divided governing institutions so that nobody can establish a unified policy process and direct the government.
The People's Patriotic Party was first registered in September 2002 and was chaired by General Igor Rodionov, a former defense minister and a deputy of the Russian parliament. Rodionov was later a member of the "left-wing" Just Russia party led by Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov. Russia's Supreme Court upheld 28 June 2007 a decision to disband a Russian political party, which failed to meet the legal criteria for recognition as such. The court upheld the Federal Registration Service's claim that the party was not operating in accordance with Russian law, which states that political parties must have a minimum of 50,000 party members and have branches in most of the 86 constituent members of the Russian Federation, with at least 500 members in each office, as well as pass a 7% threshold.
In October 2008 Russian authorities announced the most radical military reforms since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. General of the Army Igor Rodionov, former defense minister, said accelerated move to a brigade structure could be an indirect result of the conflict in South Ossetia. "Victory in a limited theater of military operations has convinced the Russian authorities that small mobile units are the best way of achieving success in any modern conflict," he said. "But only a large-scale war could confirm or disprove whether this decision is correct."
For exemplary performance of duty Gen. IN Rodionov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner, Red Star and For Service to Motherland in the Armed Forces of the USSR 2nd and 3rd degree, twelve medals.
Army General Igor Nikolaevich Rodionov, the former defence minister who in many ways epitomised what was both the best and the worst of the Soviet officer corps, died 19 December 2014 after a lengthy illness.
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